Our Andy (aka UKNESBoy) hasn’t had it great with some of the titles he’s been tasked to review of late, so we thought we’d be nice and let him loose on Rare’s lovely romp, Cobra Triangle. And do we consider it one of our top ten NES racing games? Hmmm…
It is often said not to judge a book by its cover and not presume the contents of something based on first impressions. This applies to a lot of things in life including the first level of video games. On the surface you think you know the type of game you’re going to be playing and know what you are letting yourself into, but scratch more than the surface and delve deeper into the game, you realise that there is more then what it seems. It could even be that you classify the game as one genre when in fact it turns out to be a hybrid of two or three different things. The reason for this philosophical introduction is that today’s review is a game that on the surface may seem like a vehicular racer but delve deeper and you quickly see that there is more to the game then its first impressions. The game? Cobra Triangle – is the game time well “ser-pent” or should it be consigned to the annals of “hiss-tory”? (Adrian would be proud of this word play! – Ed)
Cobra Triangle was developed by those fine folk Rare and released on the NES in 1989. At its core Cobra Triangle is a racing game involving speedboats of which the game will have you racing round, defusing bombs or even saving swimmers in the pool. Your speedboat has a projectile weapon to destroy other boats, which you’ll need in order to complete the 25 levels the game offers. Like a number of Rare games released on the NES the game is presented in an isometric format (at an angle to those not in the know) with which the camera scrolls and follows the speedboat as it is being driven round completing the mission. The controls again like other Rare NES titles seem to be on an isometric design too however the control scheme is better than say Marble Madness with which there were two different ways of controlling the marble – with Cobra Triangle it is one way only but intuitive and easy to pick and play with.
When the game is turned on you’re treated to an absolutely stunning title card, one of which not only looks mightily impressive but also sets the tone for the graphics of the game. The title screen shows a humongous dragon licking the speedboat in an attempt to devour it, a mine waiting to the side ready to blow up and knock you out the water. The attention to detail and colours look exquisite and draw well on the capabilities of the console. The name Cobra Triangle shows in gold at the top glittering away, awaiting for you as the player to push start and the music sounds great, getting you in the mood to play. When you do push start you then have to press start once more to start the game, or failing that you can view the high scores which let’s be honest isn’t something you paid to sit and watch. Press start and the game begins.
At the start of each level it notes the requirement in order to progress, which for example on the very first level is to race to the finish. As noted earlier there are different objectives in order to progress, be it to defuse bombs by taking them from one part of the course to the other. It could be to save the swimmers in the water by staying in the centre and destroying other speedboats who try to kidnap them or if you are really lucky it could be taking on a boss fight. The one constant that remains true is that it is just you and your powered-up speedboat ready to take on whatever the game throws at you. The controls are straight forward enough – the d-pad moves your boat, one button accelerates the boat and the other button fires a projectile weapon. It doesn’t get any more complicated then that and what also helps is that the controls are tight and responsive and makes it feel effortless in controlling your speedboat. The music as noted earlier is upbeat and gets you pumped up ready for whatever mission comes your way, with the sound effects sounding realistic and mimicking the noise of a speedboat well, coupled with the destruction of other speedboats. The music is not necessarily the most memorable on the NES library but sure is one that makes you want to turn the volume up on the television and not resort to your own music device. As touched upon earlier, graphically the game looks just as good as other Rare-based games on the NES. The colours look bold and defined, and the waves bobbing up and down the water add a nice touch to proceedings. Given this game was developed in 1988 and released in 1989, the developers tried to push the boundaries of the graphics more and more which resulted in this game looking very pleasing on the eye and the little touches such as the waves and also the flags billowing in the breeze just add to the charm of the game.
Cobra Triangle is a fine addition to the NES library with kick-ass controls and kick-ass music alongside some well-thought out level design and objectives. At 25 levels long there was the possibility that the game could get stale however the variants of the levels keep the game fresh. What is to be noted however is that things can get difficult and more challenging with each level that passes, with extra lives seldom encountered so although the game starts off nice and genteel, you really need to up your game in order to progress. This can be frustrating especially as there is no save state or password system for you to resume your game at. If you do run out of lives having lost health for example then you can continue from the same level you died on which is some respects is good but would be better if the difficulty spike wasn’t so steep. Regardless of that, Cobra Triangle is another Rare-developed game that sits well within the NES library and for those looking for something more different then just straight racing round in a vehicle in an isometric viewpoint, this game has you covered. Copies of the game are reasonably priced on your favourite auction websites, so there is no excuse to pick up the game in it’s physical format. Being it is a game developed by Rare and having appeared on Rare Replay it is highly unlikely to feature on the Switch Online gaming service any time soon but if you do get the chance then do give it a try, it certainly wouldn’t be time wasted.
All screenshots from Moby Games.